Womens Engineering Society: Inspiring women as engineers, scientists and technical leaders

Role Models

Tanya Budd

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Tanya Budd

Awards: 35 Under 35, 2008 Young Engineer for Britain

Biography

Tanya had never thought of herself as an engineer, but an assignment on her A-Level course in product design led to the HypoHoist and opened up an exciting career path for her.

Having noticed while out with friends on a sailing course, that the recovery devices for the ‘man overboard’ exercises didn’t work too effectively, Tanya realised that what was needed was a quite simple device with which to haul people out of the water.
She went to the Southampton Boat Show and realised that this sort of thing was simply not on offer, so she set about creating one as part of a school project.

“There’s something different about this,” her teacher Graham Prickett kept saying, after she manufactured a prototype. “You should patent it,” he urged. Yet Tanya was still in denial about how revolutionary her sling-style device was. Finally she took his advice and registered the product – and ended up with two companies approaching her asking to work for them.

She went on to win the Young Engineer of Britain Award, after her ever-encouraging teacher told her to enter. Best of all, her HypoHoist is now in the shops.

Does Tanya think that there are enough role models for young engineers like herself? “Not that are presented to you when you’re young, no. If you look around you will find them, but it’s not something we know enough about. I was going to study medicine until I won the engineering prize – I didn’t even know what engineering was!

When Tanya Budd was 17 and studying for her A-levels, her product design course demanded she come up with something to help the community. While sailing on a friend's boat, an idea came to her that changed the course of her life and will help save many others.

In the middle of a lake, Budd realised that there was huge scope to improve rescue devices for people who have fallen overboard. The products on the market were expensive and unwieldy, which made it hard to conduct a rescue if you were on your own in a boat. Furthermore, many man-overboard devices required the vertical lifting of - possibly injured - victims out of the water, which could cause blood to drain from the brain and adversely affect blood pressure. Her solution was to design a cradle-like hoist made from polyester mesh that lifted people out of the water in a prone position. The mesh allows water to drain away, making the lifting process easier.

Tellingly, Budd couldn't sell her product to a manufacturer until accolades started raining in. Last year she won Young Engineer of the Year. Suddenly doors opened. She agreed terms with a British manufacturer and to date the 'HypoHoist' has sold more than 3,000 units at £300 each, generating close to £1m. The proceeds helped Budd pay for a design and engineering course at Brunel University. This weekend she is flying to Copenhagen for an international design competition.

Budd believes schools and colleges are not geared up to advise young designers that a career in product design or manufacturing is viable. She didn't even realise such an option existed at school and was all set for a career in medicine. "Britain has top-drawer designers and engineers." she says. "I think we can thrive. The only problem is cheap outsourcing of labour. But we've definitely got the talent and knowledge to make a difference."

Click here to learn more about Tanya Budd and Hypo Hoist.

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